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Colombia News Brief for April 14-19, 2018

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Welcome to LAWG’s Colombia News Brief, a compilation of the last week’s top articles and reports on issues of peace, justice, human rights, and more in Colombia
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Source: Cortesía Asomuca

Peace Accord Implementation

“Hay que proteger el paso a la vida legal de las Farc”: jefe de la misión de verificación de la ONU
El Espectador, 19 de abril de 2018
“En el momento en que el representante especial del Secretario General de la ONU, Jean Arnault, expone ante el Consejo de Seguridad en Nueva York el último informe sobre la implementación del Acuerdo de Paz entre el Gobierno colombiano y la extinta guerrilla de las Farc, el jefe de la Misión de Verificación de la ONU en Colombia, Raúl Rosende, se refirió a los avances y desafíos que han logrado documentar entre el 26 de diciembre y el 26 de marzo”.

How Santos is trying to save Colombia’s peace process
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 18, 2018
“President Juan Manuel Santos on Tuesday issued a number of emergency decrees to prevent the collapse of Colombia’s peace process and curb a surge in violence. Among the measures are a plan to protect social leaders, a push to reintegrate demobilized guerrillas and external oversight to prevent the embezzlement of funds for the peace process.”

“Mi corazón ya está acostumbrado a las penas”
Verdad Abierta, 17 de abril de 2018
“Así habla Libia Rosa Rojo, una lideresa a la que la guerra le arrebató tres hijos. A pesar de su dolor, hoy piensa en la reconciliación y así lo demostró en el municipio de Remedios, nordeste antioqueño, durante un evento en el que participaron decenas de víctimas, así como exguerrilleros y exparamilitares”.

Cuba, Norway Say Colombia-FARC Peace ‘Living Difficult Moments’
TeleSUR, April 16, 2018
“The Cuban and Norwegian governments, which sponsored the talks and the subsequent peace agreement between the Colombian government and the former insurgent group FARC, expressed their concerns about the current state of the implementation of the peace process in the country amid the persecution and killing of former members of the former guerrilla group as well as the recent arrest of congressmen-elect Jesus Santrich.”

Only one FARC leader suspected of drug trafficking: Colombia’s chief prosecutor
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 16, 2018
“Colombia’s chief prosecutor told local media that FARC ideologue “Jesus Santrich” is the only leading former guerrilla leader who is investigated on drug trafficking charges.Santrich was arrested last week after the United States issued an international arrest warrant, claiming that the senior member of the former guerrillas’ political party took part in an attempt to export 10 tons of cocaine.”

Salvatore Mancuso se somete a la Justicia Especial para la Paz
El Heraldo, 17 de abril de 2018
“El exjefe paramilitar fue uno de los cabecillas principales que acordó y promovió la creación del proceso de Justicia y Paz, mediante el cual se sometieron a una justicia especial y se desmovilizaron cerca de 50 mil paramilitares”.

Disidencias de las Farc: problema en crecimiento
Verdad Abierta, 15 de abril de 2018
“Su decisión se conoció justo cuando el país vivía un efervescente proceso electoral plebiscitario con el fin de acudir a las urnas para refrendar o rechazar los acuerdos alcanzados en La Habana. Por ello no fue bien recibido ni en las Farc ni entre los defensores del proceso de paz e introdujo temores sobre los efectos que ello tendría en la opinión de los electores, sobre todo en aquellos rechazaban las negociaciones con las Farc”.

Marxist Rebels Killed Journalists and Driver, Ecuador’s President Says
Nicholas Casey, The New York Times, April 13, 2018
“While the lion’s share of FARC fighters, roughly 7,000, disarmed and entered lives as civilians and politicians, a number of so-called dissident factions refused to give up the fight and continued rebel and drug trafficking activity.The group that killed the journalists, the Oliver Sinisterra Front, is one such faction, believed to be headed by a former FARC commander known as ‘El Guacho’, who leads several dozen rebels in the Colombian jungles.”

Colombia and Ecuador promise joint offensive against FARC dissidents
Frank Cardona, Colombia Reports, April 14, 2018
“Santos said on Twitter that he dispatched his defense minister and armed forces commander to the Ecuadorean capital of Quito in efforts to coordinate military action with the neighboring country.’I reiterated that he has and will have my full support, that of our Armed Forces and the Colombian people,’ Santos said on Twitter.”

Dissident rebels kidnap 2 more along Ecuador-Colombia border
The Washington Post, April 17, 2018
“Ecuadorean security forces backed by their Colombian counterparts have been carrying out an unprecedented manhunt for the group’s leader, Walter Arizala, better known by his alias Guacho, and have offered more than $230,000 reward for information leading to his capture.”

ELN 

Ecuador to suspend mediation of Colombia peace talks
Gonzalo Solano and Joshua Goodman, AP News, April 19, 2018
“Ecuador said Wednesday that it is suspending its role as a mediator in peace talks between the Colombian government and that nation’s last major rebel army.The decision appeared to have caught off guard Colombia’s government, which initially denied having been informed of the decision and then scrambled to play down its significance, saying it would work to find a new host for talks that have been taking place in the neighboring country for more than a year.”

ELN: ‘We Must Persist in Looking for a Political Solution’
TeleSUR, April 19, 2018
“Shortly after the decision by Ecuadorean President Lenin Moreno to suspend Ecuador’s role as guarantor country in the peace talks between Colombia’s government and the National Liberation Army (ELN), teleSUR’s Victor de Currea-Lugo talked with commanders Pablo Beltran and Aureliano Carbonell about their insurgent organization in the Ecuadorean capital, Quito.”

Catatumbo: El Reto para el estado y la mesa en Quito 
Contagio Radio, 17 de abril de 2018
“La situación en el Catatumbo, Norte de Santander, debido a la continuación de los enfrentamientos en entre el Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) y el Ejército Popular de Liberación (EPL), quienes declararon paro armado, es crítica y las comunidades están viviendo en medio de la zozobra”.

Colombia leaves quarter million people without electricity
Frank Cardona, Colombia Reports, April 19, 2018
“The power outage stretched along the province all the way to the coastal town Tumaco.The commander of Colombia’s armed forces, General Alberto Mejia, confirmed to Blu Radio that the ELN was behind the attack.’This is a place where the Southern Communards Front of the ELN commits crimes,’Mejia said.”


Rebel groups fight over coca-growing region in Colombia
BBC, April 17, 2018
“William Villamizar, governor of Norte de Santander, said the measure was necessary to assist people displaced by the clashes.He said about 1,000 families had fled the fighting and 4,000 children were unable to go to school. The EPL and the ELN are fighting for control of a coca-growing region. Much of the Catatumbo region on the border with Venezuela used to be under the influence of the Farc rebels.”

Guerrilla warfare in northeast Colombia shuts down entire region
Frank Cardona, Colombia Reports, April 16, 2018
“All activity in the Catatumbo region of northeast Colombia was paralyzed on Sunday, as the war between the EPL and ELN guerrillas escalated and an armed strike was called. EPL dissidents known as ‘Los Pelusos’ have been fighting for drug trafficking territory in the region since early March with Colombia’s largest active guerrilla group, the ELN.”

Guerra entre Epl y Eln paralizó el Catatumbo
Olga Patricia Rendon Marulanda, El Colombiano, 15 de abril de 2018
“El silencio y el miedo rondan las calles de El Tarra y de los otros diez municipios de Catatumbo, en Norte de Santander. La guerra que se declararon un reducto de la extinta guerrilla del Epl, más conocido como Los Pelusos, y el Eln, hace un poco más de un mes, se recrudece con el paso de los días y en medio, como es costumbre ya en esa región, quedan los civiles, quienes se sienten abandonados por el Estado”.

2018 Elections 

‘Se han ido cayendo los mitos contra el proceso de paz’: De la Calle
Yamid Amat, El Tiempo, 14 de abril de 2018
“De la Calle pide que Santrich sea extraditado, si la justicia transicional logra confirmar su vinculación con actividades de narcotráfico, realizadas después de la firma del acuerdo de paz. El exjefe de las negociaciones de paz dijo que no cree, como dice la Farc, que todo sea un montaje de la justicia de Estados Unidos”. 

Consultas populares y regalías, retos del próximo Gobierno
El Tiempo, 15 de abril de 2018
“Sobre el primero, en el que las consultas populares son la preocupación de todos los gremios y cuyo alcance está siendo analizado por la Corte Constitucional tras una tutela de una petrolera, Lloreda señala que hay que darle una solución al uso indebido de este mecanismo de participación, porque está utilizándose para modificar la política pública de hidrocarburos y afecta contratos vigentes entre las empresas y el Estado”.

Colombia’s 2018 election proposals: On corruption
Jarrod Demir, Colombia Reports, April 15, 2018
“Major corruption scandals that have surged in Colombia over the past few years have put the systemic corruption on the top of most candidates in the country’s presidential election race.”

Colombia’s Presidential Hopeful Gustavo Petro Wants a New Left for Latin America
Miguel Salazar, The Nation, April 18, 2018
“While attacks against a left-leaning politician are nothing new in Colombia, the sheer popularity of such a progressive politician is unprecedented. Petro’s rallies draw massive crowds, and he has been consistently polling as one of the top two candidates ahead of the presidential election on May 27. His main opponent, Ivan Duque, is a pro-business, center-right politician, who was handpicked by ex-President Álvaro Uribe Vélez, a towering figure among the country’s conservatives for his staunch opposition to the peace deal signed between the Colombian government and the FARC guerrilla group.”

Colombia: Polo Democratico Party ‘Rebels’ to Back Leftist Gustavo Petro
TeleSUR, April 15, 2018
“A dissident group within the Alternative Democratic Pole (Polo Democratico) party in Colombia asked their party’s National Executive Committee to allow them to vote for any candidate they choose to support, as many of them sympathize with Gustavo Petro, the left-wing candidate who used to be a member of their party and who now ranks as the second favorite in the first round of the May 27 presidential elections, according to most opinion polls.”

Ya hay líderes del Polo trabajando para Petro
El Tiempo, 14 de abril 2018 
“Esta semana, los congresistas mencionados y cerca de otros 100 líderes le pidieron al comité ejecutivo que permita la libertad de votar por Fajardo o por Gustavo Petro, candidato de la Colombia Humana, y la respuesta que se obtuvo de su máximo líder, el senador Jorge Enrique Robledo, fue un no rotundo”.

Human Rights and the Environment 

“Violencia contra defensores de derechos territoriales es sistemática y generalizada”: Procuraduría
Verdad Abierta, 14 de abril de 2018
“La violencia que se viene ejerciendo contra los defensores de derechos territoriales preocupa a la Procuraduría General de la Nación porque detrás de ella está la pretensión de exterminar los procesos sociales que estos líderes impulsan en sus comunidades, tanto rurales como urbanas, de ahí su sistematicidad y generalidad”.

Las mujeres de Caucasia hacen valer su voz y sus derechos
El Espectador, 17 de abril de 2018
“Son casi 400 mujeres de base las que conforman la organización más grande y consolidada en la lucha contra la violencia y la desigualdad de género en Caucasia (Antioquia). Desde 1996, sus redes se han extendido para acoger a 15 movimientos y fundaciones conformadas por mujeres del campo y la ciudad e incidir en la aplicación real de las leyes y la normatividad que las ampara”.

How Colombia’s generals got rich off the country’s defense budget
Jarrod Demir, Colombia Reports, April 17, 2018
“In the latest military embezzlement scheme, cyber security companies were used as a front to usher money into a central fund that high-ranking military officials could use for personal means.The money was embezzled into property, travel and even to hire lawyers to defend military personnel embroiled in the mass killing thousands of civilians.”

Witness in case against Colombia’s former president assassinated
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 16, 2018
“Unknown assassins have murdered another witness in one of the criminal cases against Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe, local media reported on Sunday.The victim, Carlos Enrique Areiza, admitted in 2016 that he had falsely accused Senator Ivan Cepeda of trying to bribe him into incriminating several major political figures.”

Flooding Kills 12, Displaces 1,000 in Colombia
Telesur, April 15, 2018
“Marquez has instructed all municipal and regional administrations to activate contingency plans and prepare for possible preventive evacuations. ‘Do not let your guard down, you always have to maintain prevention and care mechanisms,’ he warned.”

Venezuelan Humanitarian Crisis

United States Assisting Venezuelans in Need
U.S. Department of State, April 13, 2018 
“This funding from the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development includes a contribution to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR)’s regional response to the Venezuela crisis and humanitarian aid to Venezuelans and host communities in Colombia and Brazil. This assistance will help provide the people of Venezuela safe drinking water, hygiene supplies, shelter, protection from violence and exploitation, and work and education opportunities, in coordination with other humanitarian organizations and government partners.”

Pence announces $16 million for Venezuelans who have fled their country
Joshua Partlow and Jenna Johnson, The Washington Post, April 14, 2018
“The pledge, to the U.N. refugee agency, is intended to help Venezuelans in Brazil and Colombia who have fled the economic collapse in their home country, according to a statement describing the funding from the State Department and USAID.”

Latin America Leaders Brood: How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maduro?
Nicholas Casey and Julie Hirschfeld Davis, The New York Times, April 14, 2018
“Impoverished Venezuelans have spilled over the borders of Colombia and Brazil, seeking food and medicine, with 500,000 estimated to have arrived in Colombia alone. Despite all these troubles, Mr. Maduro is seeking re-election in May in a vote in which his most popular challengers are banned, imprisoned or have pledged to boycott.”

Counternarcotics  

Colombia considering drones to fumigate coca
Adriaan Alsema, Colombia Reports, April 18, 2018
“The country banned aerial fumigation using aircraft in 2013, but El Tiempo reported that precision spraying by low-flying drones could still be legal and less damaging to the general environment and health of farmers.The National Police has reportedly been testing drones that are able to carry 10 liters of pesticide for 10-minute fumigation flights.”

US gains key witness in drug case against Colombian rebel
Manuel Rueda and Joshua Goodman, The Washington Post, April 17, 2018
“Both were arrested in Colombia last week on U.S. charges. Audio recordings secretly obtained by U.S. investigators and released by Colombia’s chief prosecutor last week purportedly showed Marin arranging meeting between members of the Mexico-based Sinaloa Cartel and Santrich. In one of the recordings Marin is also heard allegedly negotiating the payment of a large cocaine shipment with an alleged Mexican cartel member.”

Police Seize 2.5 Tons of Marijuana in Colombia
EFE, April 18, 2018
“Colombia – Colombian police seized more than two tons of marijuana being transported in a truck traveling in the northwestern province of Antioquia, authorities said Wednesday.The 2,300 kilograms (5,000 pounds) of marijuana – which authorities said came from the southwestern province of Valle del Cauca and were intended for distribution in Medellin and neighboring cities – were wrapped in 73 separate packages concealed among powder detergent and grease.”

Con una “Oruga”, la Policía erradicará coca en Tumaco
Ricardo Monsalve Gaviria, El Colombiano, 19 de abril de 2018
“Según el último estudio de la ONU sobre los cultivos de coca en el país, Nariño es el departamento donde más se tienen hectáreas (42.627) de ese tipo de cultivos.Actualmente la Policía Antinarcóticos cuenta con 2600 uniformados que se encargan de las labores de erradicación de cultivos de uso ilícito en los departamentos de Nariño, Chocó, Antioquia, Guaviare y Meta. En esas zonas se adelantan dos modalidades de erradicación: la voluntaria y la de los grupos móviles de erradicación con aspersores manuales”.

* The Colombia News Brief is a selection of relevant news articles, all of which do not necessarily reflect the viewpoint of the Latin America Working Group.